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Abstract

Due to its economic power as the largest economy in Europe and third largest in the world, Germany inevitably will play an important role in e-commerce. After the improvement and diffusion of high-speed Internet access, like ISDN or DSL, Germany enjoys more ISDN telephone lines than any country; also the highest DSL per capita ratio, in Europe. Germany includes a large, highly educated and relatively wealthy population, which is an important prerequisite for successful e-commerce activities. Due to foreign language skills in the German population (every pupil is required to learn English; a large number know basic French or Spanish, too), the language barrier to using international Web sites is small. Moreover, the German education system puts increasing emphasis on information and communications technology (ICT) skills. Invention activity in some areas of ICT shows signs of improvement. Starting from a low level, patent activity in mobile communications and the Internet grew faster in Germany than anywhere else in Europe. This growth could be viewed as an early indicator of strengthening the mobile e-commerce sector in Germany and may be interpreted as an important effort in catching-up with overall e-commerce development. More than 80% of the GNP is created in mid-sized companies (Mittelstand), which traditionally are considered as more flexible and innovative than large enterprises. The majority of these small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can access the Internet. Looking at Internet penetration, German SMEs are at the top together with SMEs in Scandinavian countries. The central position of Germany as a hub to Europe together with the excellent public and private transport infrastructure is a competitive advantage to attract foreign investments. Germany follows the innovation model "be the best imitator of successful developments" and within this course exploits the competitive advantage achievable through integration. After e-commerce technologies proved successful, Germany caught up in developing its relevant infrastructure and is now gaining momentum.

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